New discussion paper on 'Trust Tech' continues IBA work on bullying and sexual harassment in the legal profession

Wednesday 9 December 2020

Following the 2019 release of the landmark report, Us Too? Bullying and Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession, the International Bar Association (IBA) Legal Policy & Research Unit (LPRU) continues to prioritise and drive positive change within legal workplaces across the globe, with the publication of a thought-provoking discussion paper on ‘Trust Tech’ – technology that enhances and propagates trust in professional settings.

Authored by Kieran Pender and Emma Franklin, Innovation-Led Cultural Change: Can Technology Effectively Address Workplace Harassment? explores how the emerging field of Trust Tech empowers workplaces, representative bodies and regulators to provide flexible channels for targets to report incidents. The authors write that, while traditionally 'the fear of retaliation means many targets choose to remain silent,' technological solutions are' at the forefront of new efforts to facilitate reporting.'

IBA President Horacio Bernardes Neto commented: 'This new discussion paper provides important insight to stakeholders across the legal profession and beyond. I am proud to continue to champion work towards expunging bullying and sexual harassment from our profession. The IBA remains steadfast in its commitment to stamping out such negative behavioural patterns and if technology can assist in achieving that aim, then we must embrace it and utilise this tool to its fullest capacity.’

The discussion paper directly addresses the seventh recommendation of the Us Too? report, 'Explore flexible reporting models'. Us Too? encouraged workplaces to 'investigate the potential utility of technological solutions'; in undertaking this new research, the LPRU is seeking to support such initiatives.

Innovation-Led Cultural Change outlines the limitations of existing reporting models and highlights the strengths and limitations of Trust Tech.

  • Traditional mechanisms have required employees to speak up in-person or via email or phone to human resources staff. Empirical research has demonstrated the shortcomings of this approach: respondents to the Us Too? survey said they feared reprisals and lacked trust in reporting channels.
  • Technology can mitigate some of these concerns. Many Trust Tech solutions enable anonymous reporting or information escrow reporting (such as where the report is only provided to the employer if another individual reports against the same individual).Trust Tech might empower more effective employer responses to incidents and facilitate stream-lined regulatory supervision.

In addition to an extensive literature review, the discussion paper incorporates insight from a range of stakeholders, including the founders of several market-leading Trust Tech solutions and a representative body that has recently adopted a technologically enabled flexible reporting system.

Mr Pender, discussion paper co-author and LPRU Senior Legal Advisor who led the Us Too? campaign, stressed the potential of 'Trust Tech'. 'Effectively addressing inappropriate behaviour within law requires a jigsaw puzzle approach,' he said. 'There is no one solution, no silver bullet. Instead, we require a range of innovative solutions that can change the culture that facilitates bullying and sexual harassment, and empower targets to speak up when it does occur. Trust Tech is one piece of the puzzle – and an innovative and exciting puzzle piece at that.'


Notes to the Editor

  1. Click here for LPRU reports and to download a PDF of Innovation-Led Cultural Change: Can Technology Effectively Address Workplace Harassment?
  2. Direct link to download a PDF of Innovation-Led Cultural Change: Can Technology Effectively Address Workplace Harassment?
  3. Related material:
  4. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice.
  5. The IBA Legal Policy & Research Unit (LPRU) undertakes research and develops initiatives that are relevant to the rule of law, the legal profession and the broader global community.

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